Monday, May 31, 2010

Yes Prime Minister at Chichester

On Saturday we went to the Chichester Festival Theater to see the new "Yes Prime Minister". I had not been to the Chichester Theater since 1967 when I saw Alec Guinness in "Merchant of Venice" (he wasn't very good, in fact I also saw him on stage as Samuel Pepys and he wasn’t good in that either. He was a better film actor. Film demands stillness; the stage motion).

"Yes Prime Minister" is one of my favorite TV comedy series and I wondered how it would play on stage. There are several difficulties to overcome. First there is the fact that Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Eddington made the parts of Sir Humphrey and Hacker so much their own. Then there is the difficulty of expanding the shows into a full two hours. Finally, there is the problem of how the gentle comedy will play with today's coarser politics, especially after programs like "The Thick of It".

The theater is still magnificent and has wonderful acoustics. I saw fellow CLL specialist, Daniel Catovsky in the audience, but he was too far away to speak to him.

I'm afraid that the two principals, Henry Goodman and David Haig didn't reach the required standards. They are well-known character actors who are seldom out of work. Both have appeared with Hugh Grant in either "Notting Hill" or "Four Weddings", but the parts are so identified with the late Hawthorne and Eddington, that they are stuck between aping their predecessors and trying to create new characters.

Mind you, Jonathan Slinger as Bernard Wooley (previously Derek Faulds who is still alive) was much worse. I think he played him as gay.

The plot really didn't last for two hours. As time went by it grew more and more implausible until they were reduced to implications that were both offensive and profane.

Afterwards we had time to kill so we wandered around Chichester, which obviously, from its name, derives from Roman times. It has a fine (though small) Norman cathedral, unusually with a separate bell tower. The spire has been added later, but there are some fine examples of modern art including a Piper frontal and a Chagal window. Chichester still has a feel of a small country town with interesting shops. It looks a nice place to retire to, being handily placed for the sea and the new South Downs National Park.

We had dinner at the Earl of March, a gastropub some 5 miles north of Chichester. I had the sea bream which was very good.

Chichester is only an hour’s drive from Bournemouth, so we will probably go again.

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